Trauma Violence Abuse 2019 01 19;20(1):22-39. Epub 2016 Dec 19.
4 Department of Psychology, University of California, Davis, CA, USA.
The accuracy of children's reports of abuse has been hotly debated in the press, academia, and the courtroom. Yet, children's accuracy depends, in part, on the context in which children are interviewed. Guidelines often recommend creating a supportive psychosocial context to promote open, honest responding; however, there is also concern that support promotes social desirability and acquiescence to suggestion, leading children to report more of what they perceive adults want to hear than the truth. The question remains as to whether there is a sufficient body of scientific research to determine whether interviewer supportiveness improves interview outcomes while minimizing children's stress or whether it increases suggestibility and impairs accuracy. Using a systematic search strategy and meta-analyses, this study identifies and reviews findings from experimental studies of the effects of interviewer supportiveness on the accuracy of children's reports. Although the number of studies in the evidence base is small ( n = 15), the studies are of relatively good quality. Results suggest noncontingent interviewer support bolsters children's accuracy. Children are more resistant and less acquiescent to suggestive questions when interviewers are supportive as compared to nonsupportive or neutral. Effects are in the moderate range. Interviewer support is also associated with fewer errors on nonsuggestive questions. Discussion focuses on implications for practice; directions for future research; identifying vulnerable subgroups; and underlying cognitive, social, and emotional mechanisms.